Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 06/25/21
The cycle of life. Perseverance is one of the keys says Deirdre Maloney, the founder of High Gate Racing, Canada’s largest all female competitive cycling team and author of Unfold Me: Unfold Layers of Your Wounded Heart and Begin Living Your Dream Life, her self-published memoir/handbook about cycling past the emotional wall of depression. For her, that wall involved pushing past memories sexual abuse, rape, human trafficking, drug addiction, and abusive relationships.
JWK: What motivated you to write this book? Who did you write it for – and what do you hope they take from it?
Deirdre Maloney: This book will be an eye opener for those that haven’t had any firsthand experience with addiction or mental health struggles. Though (in) this day in age I believe we are all battling these ailments to some degree. For some, addiction will be living on the streets, searching for enough money to get their next hit of drugs, and for others it may show up in using social medias or shopping to numb out.
I really want to broaden the perspective on mental health and addiction and stand up for those who feel they don’t have a voice. A lot of people have read the book and resonate with my story because they have had similar experiences really appreciate seeing this favorable end result that I’ve had…I really want other women to know that they aren’t alone in experiencing some of the harshness of the world, and to embody that they are worthy and lovable no matter what has happened in their past.
JWK: What led to your depression?
DM: I’ve been depressed multiple times in my life. The most recent was about four years ago. I was married, had three kids and we were very successful – then suddenly my past caught up with me. I was hiding this person I used to be from everyone. I felt like I wouldn’t be accepted if people knew about all of these heavy mistakes I had made, there was so much shame. After the hustle and bustle of trying to get life settled – house, kids, income – I felt like I could finally relax, and with that relaxation, I could focus on the pursuit of happiness. I learnt that happiness is not achievable 24/7 – and, while on this pursuit, it brought up a lot of childhood memories…Having small children makes you reflect on how you were raised, and you can start seeing things through an adult’s eyes, rather than a helpless child’s. A lot of these memories were painful and led me into a depression.
JWK: How did you come out of it?
DM: Mental health struggles (are) something we can overcome. There is always hope. Community was huge for me. Luckily, my husband really pushed me to get help. He coddled me for a bit but when I wasn’t getting better he put his foot down and was very assertive about his needs for us as a family. I was asked by him to do one thing every day that would be a step, big or small, in the direction of getting well. So I did, and one of those steps was calling a therapist who ran an amazing support group. This is where I found community. Having others listen to my story without judgment – being able to hold space for each other to feel safe and supported – it was truly life changing. We need connection. Depression tricks us into believing we need isolation. It was coming to the understanding that my mind was lying to me, and learning how to retrain those thoughts into positive ones (that worked for me). I love positive affirmations to help with this process.
JWK: You’ve been through a lot – sexual abuse, rape, human trafficking, drug addiction, and abusive relationships. Was it difficult writing about it all?
DM: I found writing the story very therapeutic. Getting all of these stories out of my head and onto paper definitely made me feel lighter. The hardest part for me was overcoming the fear of what people would think of me after learning about all of these experiences I had been through. I really feared social judgment. Then I also had fear around how my family would react. The shame didn’t just live with me, it was a family affair, and I was sharing intimate details about my upbringing. What kept me going was this thought – this book isn’t about me, it’s bigger than me. I knew there were people out there carrying around the shame and guilt of being abused, or addicted and I needed them to know there is hope and that they aren’t alone.
JWK: How has revealing so much about yourself affected your life and relationships?
DM: One of the most important relationships we will ever have is with ourselves, and writing this book has helped me become stronger and more resilient. Facing the many fears that came along with publishing a story like this has cultivated a lot of self-respect, and I have been able to rebuild a woman that had…been shattered as a young girl.
My relationship with my husband is stronger than ever, not necessarily from the book but from the whole growth process that (comes from) a journey like this.
I do have a brother that has (had difficulty with) the book…and that’s okay. He is on his own path. We aren’t all healing or growing at the same rate. My parents have had a hard time with it, but in the end, my mother wished me well. They grew up in a different time, where everyone hides their problems – look shiny on the outside, even if you’re crumbling on the inside. I definitely grew up in a home with a lot of dust under the rug.
My relationships with friends are much deeper and more meaningful. It’s a good feeling when someone can know some of your deepest, darkest secrets and still accepts you. Overall I would say it’s been very positive.
JWK: How important is self-acceptance and forgiveness in general in moving forward?
DM: Honestly, I believe this is key – everything starts from within. Self-acceptance is a journey we all go on. For someone that has a past like mine, it is very painful to look at parts of yourself that you want to forget. This takes forgiveness; it’s something I’m still working on. I have been able to forgive everyone that has wronged me along the way; I truly wish them all well. What has been surprising is that I’ve had a harder time forgiving myself. Logically, I understand that for a lot of the years I was a victim and couldn’t help myself but, on an emotional level, there still resides a bit of self-judgment. I’m working on that by broadening my spirituality and deepening the relationship with self. I believe in time I will heal this wound. I’ve come to far not to!
JWK: You’re married to a man who also has had issues with addiction and childhood trauma. It sounds like you’ve both brought an attitude of healing into the relationship. Can you tell me about that?
DM: I’m really lucky to have met a man that is really willing to look at himself. It didn’t start out this way. In fact, we both came into the relationship with issues around perfectionism. We wanted to show up in our lives as perfect to help us cover up our messy pasts and this led to a lot of head bumping. Over time, we were both able to lower our guards with each other and truly be our authentic selves.
After a year of marriage we started couples therapy which helped us start to communicate clearly and compassionately – something that neither of us learned growing up. Eventually, we each started individual therapy as well. Once we were able to understand each other’s communication style and what triggered each person, we were able to really embrace each other and have deep understanding of how to support each other.
If any of the readers are struggling in their relationship, I highly recommend couples therapy. It’s a big commitment but it is worth the time and money. There is nothing like having someone in your corner one hundred percent.
JWK: You’ve said that you didn’t grow up with religion but have come to believe in a Higher Power, which some call God and others may think of as Universal Energy. Regardless of the name, how has embracing this faith affected your life?
DM: Faith is in my everyday routine. I lean on it in the good times and the bad. My first understanding of how leaning into a higher power can help guide your life was when I read The Secret. I found it so amazing and started putting these beliefs into practice. My world immediately changed, and I was much happier.
I now look for signs daily from Spirit, and I find them in nature, number patterns, and animals – I find great comfort knowing there are angels out there supporting us, cheering us on, and offering us guidance if we are open to it.
It’s given me a deeper connection to nature and to trusting myself. Knowing that there is a greater plan for me that is perfectly tailored to help me grow as a spiritual being brings me comfort – so, when the hard times hit, I know it’s a lesson I need to learn to get through to the next phase of growth and I’m able to embrace it with more ease.
JWK: How did you choose Unfold Me as the title of the book?
DM: This was really easy. I was at an awards event where one of my best friends was being inducted into the Aurora Sports Hall of Fame here in Ontario, Canada. During her speech, she was telling the crowd about how rewarding it has been for her to give back to the community through her coaching, specifically to the youth swim program. She said that the children were like delicate butterflies just coming out of their cocoon and that they needed to be unfolded very gently to preserve their delicacy. This made me very emotional for two reasons – the first because it is a beautiful way to look at children growing into the world. The second reason was that I never felt anyone looked at me as being delicate when I was a child and I longed to be unfolded delicately. I decided that I would unfold myself in a gentle manor through writing. The Unfolding Project, my blog, emerged first. This is where I dappled in sharing parts of my story, unfolding the layers of myself, and gaining comfort in sharing these parts of my life with others. Unfold Me is an invitation to pull up a seat and unfold with me, as you will surely see parts of yourself in my story.
JWK: You are the founder of High Gate Racing, Canada’s largest all-female cycling team. Tell me about that – and is cycling, in some ways analogous to recovery in that, while it’s important to be aware of where you’ve been, it’s even more important to look ahead to where you’re going?
DM: Endurance sport is very addictive and I believe when I first got involved it helped to fill a void within – lack of self-love. As I healed myself, I began to have a much healthier relationship with sport and it has really helped me in my marriage as my husband and I share the passion together. I believe it is really important in a relationship, having something that connects you. It could be anything – sports, gardening, or cooking! As long as you both come alive while doing it.
Once I was in a place to give back, I wanted to create a space in cycling where women felt seen and supported. It’s a very male-dominated sport. Typically women are on mixed gender teams lurking in the shadows. It’s especially difficult for younger athletes and that is why I created a youth development program that focuses on helping them excel in different areas, even outside of sport.
Yes, I like that analogy – it is similar. We need to be able to look back and see where we have come from, acknowledge where we are with gratitude, and find the courage and commitment to keep moving forward.
JWK: What is ahead for you?
DM: I just published a plant-based cookbook, Unfolding in the Kitchen. My family has eaten plant-based for seven years now and I love cooking. After finding ways to recreate my traditional favorites – as plant-based meals that are easy, tasty, and kid approved – I felt compelled to share them with others.
When I adopted a plant-based diet it helped me cure my disordered eating which consisted of starving myself and bingeing. I touch on my struggles with food and body image in Unfold Me. Eating plants gave me a new outlook on where my food was coming from. I also felt more satiated due to the high fiber and vitamin content you receive from whole foods. This cookbook is great for someone looking to add a few plant=based meals to their week or even the person already eating fully plant based. It’s very health conscious – although there are a few desserts and some decadent cashew cheeses. It is currently available on Amazon.
End Note: Dierdre lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband and children. You can keep up with her work at theunfoldingproject.com.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
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